First, I tracked down exactly how many donors I had over $10. Since Dimeword's original idea was to get at least 100 backers of $10 or more, I'd fallen short by just 9. Then I remembered I'd promised the first 10 backers would be upgraded to a minimum $10 pledge, so the number dropped to 7. And I remembered I'd rolled two other donations from family into my wife's donation, which left me at just 5. After two phone calls, I had three more backers, and two people stepped up via Twitter (Thanks, Kiernan and Karen!). 100 backers. Done. Makes me happy.
Next I created what I call "story buckets" which were 10 sets of 10 5.5" x 8" papers numbered 1-10 and the genre. Then I drew up a list of workable synopses on a big paper, chose the best 10, and wrote one on each paper. This method will help a lot in planning the sequence the final stories will be placed in the final book.
Currently, I have 27 synopses decided, mostly in historical fiction and humor, but a few sci-fi and fairy tales for good measure. I'm also reaching out to the 10 people who selected the "Gribbalicious" tier to see what kind of genre, character and/or plot they want. The first 10 people to donate also were "upgraded" to the "Gribbalicious" tier, so make sure you check your junk mailbox just in case!
The big news is that I finally finished the two outstanding stories for Wonder Russell. I'm sure Wonder will put them online shortly, but here's one story that's already online. And below are all the stories in full, which is good taster of what's to come. N.B. These stories are mostly allegorical and won't make much sense until you see Wonder's short film Revelation.
You are forbidden among us.
You have committed a repugnant trespass—we judge you for this indiscretion. You knew full well the laws of our tribe yet have created this abomination, this halfling that is neither of our tribe nor his.
You are banished.
The creature you joined with has been dispatched and your punishment is a death of a thousand cuts from the wildlife. Since you are a warrior, your punishment will last longer than most.
Yet… you are a mother. And no mother should be taken completely from her child, just as we should not wish one’s worst enemies suffer the loss of their parents prematurely. Thus, we have also decided, as part of your punishment, to have your halfling son come to you. He will see your foreign visage and attack it because it is not him. He will not know it is you, and nobody can tell him. You will not know, and we will never tell you.
Your punishment is to be locked in battle with your only offspring, unknowingly.
Like all puzzles, however, there is a secret escape, an offer of redemption if you last long enough.
We are not so cruel, yes?
Safe in here. I like this. I like how you hold me.
I know who you are. Where you must go. It is inevitable.
Whisper to me. Tell me your secrets. Safe in here.
You must leave this. It is time. Come.
Don’t let go… Don’t leave. Don’t leave!
Please: you are not lost—we await you—but we cannot tell you where to go. You must make your own path.
I don’t want this. You have forsaken me. Safe in here.
You’re close. Your obstacle is you now. Push past your fears.
Why?? Why do you leave? I need you… I’m dying.
Do you feel life? Come join us.
I see you. You are ready. You are a woman. You are purity. We all want to meet you.
I don’t recognize you.
Look at me. Look at you. Tell me what you see.
A fraction of my parents, and more. I want to go back.
We all want to go back. And you can… just not forever.
Is this your home?
No. This is your home. I say what I see, I tell no lies.
What is a lie?
Safe out here.
Though thousands of miles from home, she still understood the sermon. It was in Latin, her Sunday morning tongue. Strangers around her went through the motions—sitting, kneeling, standing. It was thrilling to find such familiarity amid so strange a land.
It ended. She left the church, resuming her loneliness exactly where she left off. This isn’t right, she thought. I’m empty. I am not connected.
She sat on a nearby bench, looking across the plaza. Boys played soccer. Men threw bocce balls. Reflexively, she pulled out Rosary beads, pinching one of the beads between her knuckles. Her eyes wandered down to the beads.
Will I never slice through this spiritual scar tissue? she wondered. These beads imbue me with nothing.
Then—a crash. She looked up: an old woman was face down on the concrete, arms flailing like a crab.
The boys ran over, pulling the woman up gingerly. Then the men. She saw it: genuine empathy. One boy offered the toothless woman gum—the men laughed.
That moment was more spiritual than all her decades at Church. She stood, crying. Then went over to see how she could be of any assistance.
Her Rosary beads stayed behind.
You cannot find me.
You have sought me before, and will continue… it is futile for I am faster than light, faster than the darkness. I am the place in-between you.
Yet still you look.
This cannot abide. Something must be done. I will lay out a laundry list of the unexpected, pouring molten lava into your soul, rippling for years evermore. Merciless. I hope you break.
But you won’t, will you? Not if you don’t want it. You are not a target to be jabbed at. You are the knife… and I sharpen you with every parry. One day, perhaps, you will see just how poignant that is.
Then, one day years from today, I’ll see you battle-scarred and floating across the field. A vicious battle… I thought you’d have succumb… but there you are, blinking deliberately into the soft wind, uncaring of your beaten armor or the earthen ink blots that pepper it.
You have fire now. You are fire. Nothing can stop you.
Yet still you look.
On that day—when you grasp the futility yet carry on—we will become one. It’s what you always wanted.
And you will hate me for it.
How oddly insects would think of us. Bones on the inside? they'd say in shock. What use could that possibly serve? Was that what the first blacksmiths thought when they created knightly armor?
Yet no armor can be smithed for malice or dishonor.
So we collect. We gather all these material things around us to nurture our soul and remind us we are not alone. We even acquire a spouse as par for the course.
Yet all these things you've collected... they aren't armor, just a snake skin. You wear them for comfort and protection. I know this for I am among them. You wear me to show off to others, to label accordingly. You feel it sharpens you, makes you more fit for battle. Sadly, I am only a hilt… your sword remains blunted and futile. You will not know this until your hilt has been ripped away without ceremony.
All skins shed by circumstance or choice. Which poison will it be?
A marriage ends, a skin sloughs… your agony is severe. Endless.
Your new skin is fresh, and adaptive. You don’t need the old things anymore.
You don’t need me.
Your inner armor fits you well.
On the stage, she was at home. She wore the cloak of another's soul, wrapped so tightly in it that all else faded away, both for her and her audience. Yes, an act, certainly, but such an exquisite moment that it felt like falling into one’s stride for the first time, as if an angel were softly tickling guitar strings deep inside her chest.
The moment she walked into the light, all her Will surrendered to it. She was transcendent. Her body hummed, an emotional tuning fork coaxing out nethermost feelings.
It was not to last. On the subway home, she always snapped back. Alien. Disconnected. Life was no rehearsal, right? So why did she feel she were awkwardly learning her lines? Her real life was the act, and it weighed on her.
Behind a forgotten quiet thought, her acting coach insinuated himself into the spotlight. He sat with crossed legs, and abruptly waved his arms like a chicken. When your lines are predictable, he laughed, do something—anything—unpredictable.
That made her smile.
The train swayed, liltingly. She peeled off her coat.
No more acting. I am a conduit for myself.
She spread her arms wide—and danced.